Jonathan Kaplan on mon 5 apr 99
Well, now its time for me to make something like an artist's statement, in
response to Tony's last post.
And Tony, I don't consider you a whiner=21
I guess I'm a bit defensive, but I would like to set the record straight so
that I can feel that I am not so maligned. I do appreciate Tony's response,
and while far be it for me to assert, I do find humor, passion, content, as
well as self-righteousness in his post. But hey, its just an opinion, as
all my postings have been. As I respect his opinions, as I hope he respects
mine. I read and enjoy his musings in Contact Magazine, and his posts on
=22If our goal is again to be better potters, how about spending some time
designing better ware than to be cought up in this process/product debate
that will really serve no purpose
other than clog this list and make fools out of many, myself included? =22
To which Tony responded:
=22It seems to me that this statement really tells the difference between =
=22industrialist=22 and the =22craftsperson.=22
Huh? I don't follow the thinking here. How does it tell this difference?
I'll provide some information
about what I do and my background soon enough. BTW, while I have an open
mind and use assisted technologies(industrial processes?) I really don't
think I can ever be called an =22Industrialist.=22 Hell, I don't make that =
I also am a craftsperson and what we produce has a high degree of design
and craftsmanship in it.
( more at the end ofthis post)
=22I hang out with a bunch of potters who are passionate about process. The
pressers I have known usually are burned out potters. I'm generalizing
again. Thinking there there is money in volume. There probably is. They are
always defending what they do as being right. And not being invited to the
Yes these are big generalizations. Anyone can operate a press, pull down
that jigger arm, pour that slip. That's the easy part. Ever wonder how you
get to that stage of the PROCESS?
I am quite well connected in the field. I have hung out and still hang out
with many potters who are as passionate about process as you and your
colleagues are. I too am passionate about process. My view of process is
not as myopic as some. Process is big and encompasses more then wheel
throwing and stoking the wood kiln.
Is there money in volume? Maybe. You can throw 1000 mugs, cast, press or
jigger 1000 mugs. But it doesn't do a damn bit of good if you can't sell
them or don't have a market for them. I think for the most part potters
don't have a clue as to how to price there work and end up giving it away
for pennies. The margins in making pots are slim at best. Most potters
don't account for their labor or studio overhead. If they would, they would
find out that they are working far below the minimum wage.
I don't need to defend what I do or how I do it. My work will stand on its
own as well as the work I design for my clients. What is right? What is
wrong? I would hope that my thinking about pottery doesn't define things as
right or wrong. Oh, by the way, I always get invited to the potter's ball.
Have so for years. And you know what? Even if I didn't, I wouldn't care. I
don't need to climb the pottery social ladder or schmooze with the stars.
But.... while I have schmoozed with them for many years, it is of little
social importance to me. To me, the potter's balls and the stars are ways
to talk to and meet interesting people
and learn other's points of views.
I have not turned to hydraulic pressing because I am a burned out potter.
I am far being from being burned out. A bit fatiqued now and then , but
certainly not burned out=21 Maybe the potters you refer to are, and its a =
thing. Maybe they need to re-invent themselves, or stop making lots of poor
quality pots, or leave the field. But its not for me to say.
=22There are a couple of routes to Plateville. One is the super highway. You
get there real fast, take you life in your hands, don't see a thing but
bumpers and asphalt. The other way is down the country road through the
orchards etc. etc. (edited for brevity). Its going to take you longer and
probably cost you more time and money. You'll remeber the plate you bought.
You bought into the experience, the process, the design and the time
honored traditions of handmade pots.=22
Eloquently said, point well taken. Again, I do respect your passion. I do
think that =22the time honored traditions of handmade pots=22 is a bit weepy
and perhaps overly sentimental. We all work with in the traditions of
potterymaking. I guess it depends on the length, breadth, and width of that
But rather than a couple of routes to Plateville, I would humbly suggest
that there are many directions you can choose from, which do include your
quick and easy super highway or the country road. I don't quite understand
how all of this relates to =22you take your life in your hands.=22 I don't =
the analogy. You make choices. You can embrace or throw out as much or as
little from your life as you wish. My life involves risks and consequences,
challenges and successes, passion and process. My life is determined by my
choices, and yes, it is totally in my hands, as is yours and everyone
else's who desires not to be clueless in Potteryland/Plateville.
Will it cost you more time and money? Maybe yes, maybe no. I would submit
than any one who chooses to press, jigger, or cast will agree that the
learning curve is involved: new skills, new vocabulary, new interests, and
it takes time. As are the years need to hone throwing skills. While anyone
can operate a press, pull down a jigger arm, pour slip into a mold, not
every one can design the ware, the models, design the molds, create casting
bodies from scratch, or design the entire PROCESS. You speak of the
process. Well, again, any one who chooses to use assisted technologies has
to be quite involved in process. What one might infer from your posts as
well as some others that there is only one process.
And a value judgement placed on that process.
My friend, process is everywhere in ceramics. From making clay and glaze,
extruding or pulling handles, throwing, pugging, designing press/jigger
tooling from a drawing or a model, talking about our work, pottery is all
Now as for me:Some brashless self promotion.....Just to set the record
straight from this so called =22industrialist=22.........
I have been a studio potter since 1975.I have worked by myself and I've had
employees. I have thrown who knows how many thousands of pots since then.
I have written about what I do, how I do it, so that perhaps others can
learn from my experiences. I have never advocated that it is=22 my way or =
highway=22 and pottery must be made a certain way to be considered ethical,
right, better, more pure. This is all verbal clap trap. It is a rhetorical
arguement, at best. You can buy into it or not. I'll respect your choice
and opinion in either case. But don't disrespect mine.
I've been on the road for retail shows and wholesale shows for many years.
My work has been and is in galleries and stores.
I still make pots. My work is out there. It stands on its own.
Within my company, we throw, jigger, slip cast and RAM=A9 press. We make =
for other potters and design and produce wares for the giftware and
tabletop industries. I consult on techncial ceramics for potters and
Ceramics Monthly. I don't lie or deceive my customers. I tell it like it
What I bring to my work and my client's projects ,are years of working as
a STUDIO POTTER and contains the crafsmanship and the values of studio
work, as well as those elements necessary to use assisted technology.
And it shows. Lots of wares produced in the many pottery factories both
here and overseas, or south of the border shows absolutely none of this.
And it can't stand on its own. It is lifeless. And that's what separates
what Ceramic Design Group does from the others. Ever wonder why some mass
produced work looks so bland? Its probably in a particular company, someone
said to the mold maker =22Hey we need some dinnerware in the line. Make
some=21=22 The mold maker makes some dinnerware. And its not designed its =
made. No sense of form, shape, surface, whatever. Made for expediency.
I make models and molds for casting=3B molds and tools for jiggering=3B dies
for RAM=A9 pressing. My moldwork is designed to reflect the quality of the
wares they produce.
We design work that has the substance and stuff that is contained in studio
work and make it with whatever methods we need. We don't for one instance
diminsh the work for expediency. We don't =22not design=22 work so that it =
be made with out regard for its quality. We take it through the PROCESS so
that we can use assisted technology. We help potters and others grow their
or grow themselves.
I am proud of my accomplishments and am aware of my faults. I don't have to
defend what I do or how I do it.
I respect others right to make and do their work with what ever methods and
ascribe whatever values they wish to that work. I have never, nor will I
asert that the means I have chosen to make work are any better or any
worse. All they are are ways of working. They just work for me. I am aware
of my choices.
Maybe my approach to what I do is a non sequitor: using assisted
technologies in essentially a studio situtation to produce work that has
the value, style, and substance of that which is made as one-off. Maybe
what I do and how I do it is threatening to some. I can't see why.
I'm quiet secure in what I do.
I've written enough. I hope, that in a small way, this has made some
sense. After all, are we not all making pots?
Jonathan Kaplan, president
Ceramic Design Group LTD/Production Services
PO Box 775112
Steamboat Springs CO 80477
1280 13th Street Unit 13
Steamboat Springs CO 80487
(970) 879-9139 voice and fax